“through the act of living, the discovery of oneself is made concurrently with the discovery of the world around us. . ."

Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Heavy, Empty Heart

New Year Eve evening. Like the last few New Year eves, this one too, I shall spend with my family. And I will fondly recollect the many New Year eves of my youth. The many drunken orgies, standing atop hills in forests shrouded in mist, walking alone in the Himalayas, sitting at the Wellington Island Embarkation Jetty with a friend.

I had half-heartedly tried to pick a friend today for an evening drink together. I don’t frequent this habit; when I do, I drink only with close friends or such company I am totally at ease with. There aren’t many friends left here; those left are occupied otherwise. So be it.

But today’s news left me even more brooding about the coming new year. A young, pretty girl of 21 died near University College in a freak accident. I gazed at her face for a long time. Twenty one! Then, there was news in the morning about the blaze at Karunagappalli when a gas tanker and car collided and killed a few. Many of the casualties were brought to the Medical College Hospital (very close to where I work). Don’t know how many more might die.

I am not depressed; but these tragedies leave me listless and disturbed. I cannot, I really cannot celebrate New Year. I guess I will sit quietly in my room, listen to some old Hindi songs and read a book. It is not any guilt or sorrow that makes me feel like this. It is just this heavy emptiness that bogs me down.

I won’t write a poem. I won’t. But let me wish you, my friends, the very proof of my existence, a Happy New Year.

************* Balachandran, Trivandrum, 31.12.2009

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


The hall was filled with audience. They had come from far and near to listen to the old poet. At one end, on the raised podium, sat the old man, head bent and silent. Then somebody asked him to recite a poem. His poem. Words he had written. Raising his head, the old man looked at the people. His strength had gone; he knew he hadn't much longer to live. His memory had faded, there were too many to remember. Looking at the people who waited patiently, with love, to listen to his poem, the old man searched his memory. Then it came, the words in soft Spanish. He spoke of love.

He would have remembered the black hair that flowed in the wind, the red lips that send blood surging through him, those dark eyes that drew his heart and hid it between her breasts, those gentle, caring arms that embraced him and made him forget himself.

The old poet stopped. He couldn't remember the next line. He looked around for her, asking her help. Then – a man rose from the audience and recited the line. Then, another rose and the poet heard the next line. It flowed, from the different corners of the hall. The old man sat up straight and from his eyes flowed tears of happiness....

Couple of weeks ago, at the annual Bodheswaran Memorial Lecture, Sasi Tharoor spoke of those who were politicians as well as writers. Who amidst their duties as world leaders found solace and strength in writing. He spoke of Neruda.

Below, you will find a few poems by Neruda. I write this about him, because I believe any work of art that lay claim to be one, has to be created in love. Even when we speak of hatred or sorrow, we should remember we are talking about love; or the lack of it. All the rest is mere contortions of the mind. The essence of life is love. One can only pity those who cannot love, those who are afraid to love and those who pretend to love.

Ode to Sadness

Sadness, scarab

With seven crippled feet,

Spider web egg,

scramble-brained rat,

bitch's skeleton:

No entry here.

Don't come in.

Go away.

Go back

south with your umbrella,

go back

north with your serpent's teeth.

A poet lives here.

No sadness may

cross this threshold.

Through these windows

comes the breath of the world,

fresh red roses,

flags embroidered with

the victories of the people.


No entry.


your bat's wings,

I will trample the feathers

that fall from your mantle,

I will sweep the bits and pieces

of your carcass to

the four corners of the wind,

I will wring your neck,

I will stitch your eyelids shut,

I will sew your shroud,

sadness, and bury your rodent bones

beneath the springtime of an apple tree.


I Crave Your Mouth, Your Voice, Your Hair

Don't go far off, not even for a day

Don't go far off, not even for a day, because --

because -- I don't know how to say it: a day is long

and I will be waiting for you, as in an empty station

when the trains are parked off somewhere else, asleep.

Don't leave me, even for an hour, because

then the little drops of anguish will all run together,

the smoke that roams looking for a home will drift

into me, choking my lost heart.

Oh, may your silhouette never dissolve on the beach;

may your eyelids never flutter into the empty distance.

Don't leave me for a second, my dearest,

because in that moment you'll have gone so far

I'll wander lazily over all the earth, asking,

Will you come back? Will you leave me here, dying?


From – Twenty Poems of Love

I can write the saddest lines tonight.

Write for example: ‘The night is fractured

and they shiver, blue, those stars, in the distance’

The night wind turns in the sky and sings.

I can write the saddest lines tonight.

I loved her, sometimes she loved me too.

On nights like these I held her in my arms.

I kissed her greatly under the infinite sky.

She loved me, sometimes I loved her too.

How could I not have loved her huge, still eyes.

I can write the saddest lines tonight.

To think I don’t have her, to feel I have lost her.

Hear the vast night, vaster without her.

Lines fall on the soul like dew on the grass.

What does it matter that I couldn’t keep her.

The night is fractured and she is not with me.

That is all. Someone sings far off. Far off,

my soul is not content to have lost her.

As though to reach her, my sight looks for her.

My heart looks for her: she is not with me

The same night whitens, in the same branches.

We, from that time, we are not the same.

I don’t love her, that’s certain, but how I loved her.

My voice tried to find the breeze to reach her.

Another’s kisses on her, like my kisses.

Her voice, her bright body, infinite eyes.

I don’t love her, that’s certain, but perhaps I love her.

Love is brief: forgetting lasts so long.

Since, on these nights, I held her in my arms,

my soul is not content to have lost her.

Though this is the last pain she will make me suffer,

and these are the last lines I will write for her.


A Dog Has Died

My dog has died.

I buried him in the garden

next to a rusted old machine.

Some day I'll join him right there,

but now he's gone with his shaggy coat,

his bad manners and his cold nose,

and I, the materialist, who never believed

in any promised heaven in the sky

for any human being

I believe in a heaven I'll never enter.

Yes, I believe in a heaven for all dogdom

where my dog waits for my arrival

waving his fan-like tail in friendship.

Ai, I'll not speak of sadness here on earth,

of having lost a companion

who was never servile.

His friendship for me, like that of a porcupine

withholding its authority,

was the friendship of a star, aloof,

with no more intimacy than was called for,

with no exaggerations:

he never climbed all over my clothes

filling me full of his hair or his mange,

he never rubbed up against my knee

like other dogs obsessed with sex.

No, my dog used to gaze at me,

paying me the attention I need,

the attention required

to make a vain person like me understand

that, being a dog, he was wasting time,

but, with those eyes so much purer than mine,

he'd keep on gazing at me

with a look that reserved for me alone

all his sweet and shaggy life,

always near me, never troubling me,

and asking nothing.

Ai, how many times have I envied his tail

as we walked together on the shores of the sea

in the lonely winter of Isla Negra

where the wintering birds filled the sky

and my hairy dog was jumping about

full of the voltage of the sea's movement:

my wandering dog, sniffing away

with his golden tail held high,

face to face with the ocean's spray.

Joyful, joyful, joyful,

as only dogs know how to be happy

with only the autonomy

of their shameless spirit.

There are no good-byes for my dog who has died,

and we don't now and never did lie to each other.

So now he's gone and I buried him,

and that's all there is to it.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Today is Bank Strike. I am at home. P has left for college, K to his friend’s for studying. I cleaned the house; swept and dusted and swiped the rooms, while listening to Elvis, Mukesh and Kishore da. Now, resting, I listen to Lighthouse Family’s song. It is what is called of the ‘Easy listening’ genre. I feel good, relaxed and for the time being, at peace with the world. Before K left, he made me watch a bit from the movie, ‘Taare zameen par’. It is about handicapped children; dyslexic, mongoloid and such mentally challenged children. Together we watch a scene. K tells me – ‘Acha, this is what I want to do, to work with such children, to help them.’ We reminiscence about helping blind people cross the road and how elated we would feel after that. I am touched and glad that the two of us could talk like this. I am happy that he has realized what he wants to do with his life; not to make money, not to climb ladders, not to join the rat race. I am happy that my son has compassion for the less fortunate. In him, my faith in humanity is restored.

I have given below the link to Youtube of the above song. And also the lyrics ( in spite of having listened to English songs since my youth, I still find it difficult to follow the lyrics, which K finds pathetic!). I would like you, my friends, to listen to this song; and believe in the goodness of life. In such moments of inspiration do we find a reason to live…

Love, love to you all.



(I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be) lyrics
I wish I knew how it would feel to be free
I wish I could break all the chains holding me
I wish I could say all the things that I should say
Say 'em loud say 'em clear
For the whole wide world to hear

I wish I could share
All the love that's in my heart
Remove all the bars that keep us apart
And I wish you could know how it is to be me
Then you'd see and agree that every man should be free

I wish I could be like a bird in the sky
How sweet it would be if I found I could fly
Well I'd soar to the sun and look down at the sea
And I'd sing cos I know how it feels to be free

I wish I knew how it would feel to be free
I wish I could break all the chains holding me
And I wish I could say all the things that I wanna say
Say 'em loud say 'em clear
For the whole wide world to hear
Say 'em loud say 'em clear
For the whole wide world to hear
Say 'em loud say 'em clear
For the whole wide world to hear

One love one blood
One life you've got to do what you should
One life with each other
Sisters, brothers

One love but we're not the same
We got to carry each other Carry each other
One One One One One...

I knew how it would feel to be free
I knew how it would feel to be free

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Sun Shines Brightly

The evening was full of surprises.

Sunshine had a brighter, merrier tinge

Streets were full of decent men

And every woman looked beautiful.

Signals turned green at my very sight

Youngsters gave way, most obliging.

The fishmonger gave a couple free

The coffee tasted so good.

At the corner shop, I read out

A letter in English

To the unlettered worker

Who listened joyfully, as I told him

His daughter will be home for X’mas.

Passing, slowly, I saw me

In the glass panes -

A happy, smiling, me.

******* Balachandran, Trivandrum, 08.12.09

Friday, December 4, 2009

Sunset sceneries

Yesterday evening, I was waiting near the counsel’s chambers to hand over the money for purchasing stamp paper for the sale deed. I felt drained and exhausted. Never before in my life had I made such a huge financial commitment. It is a gamble that I took; only the future would reveal its fate.

I was on the corner where the road turned left and the lane by the canal veered off to right. Roosting crows cawed; men slunk beside the tea shop. Roosting humans hurried, harried, home. I waited for the lawyer, tense. The recurring thought was how unfit I was in the survival business. I am the kind who would be comfortable in cold mountains; it is not an escapist’s fantasy. I just know I do not belong here.

Then, from the darkening lane, an old woman appeared. Walking briskly, she came up straight to me. I have a habit of automatically noting physical features (cultivated from reading too many detective novels as a boy!). I note the faded, crumpled, soiled green checkered rag that you might call a sari. I note the shabby blouse and the wrinkled, dark skin. Hair is partly grey and she has lost most of the frontal teeth. On her left shoulder hung an old fashioned ‘air bag’ stuffed. I note: beggar woman, late sixties or early seventies, must have seen better days - no, not a beggar; I see it in her eyes.

‘Ente Makkalevide poyi?’ she asked me, Where have my children gone? I assume that grave, expressionless countenance I use for dealing with drunks, the mentally unstable and other avoidable humans. It is a mask of blank face. It works, usually. She glares. She repeats her question. I get uncomfortable and glance at the men standing by the tea shop. They are curious how I would handle the situation. She too glances at them and asked –‘‘Ente Makkalevide poyi?’ The men turn away, avoiding her eyes. I realize that she was not really expecting us to answer her question, because she turned and walked away briskly into the crowd of humanity, asking over and over, about her children.

The old woman is swallowed up by the crowd. I lose sight of her. Nothing really matters, does it? Really, nothing matters.

******** Balachandran V, Trivandrum 04.12.2009

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Beginnings of a New Day

There were two of them, silent, so unusual

Green Barbets, on the Papaya tree.

A flurry of green wings, heads cocked

They studied the ripe, yellow Papaya.

To lie on bed and watch birds in the morning!

One nibbling on one and the other on the other –

Pity me! The fruits I had hoped to pluck today!

Then hopped down a Woodpecker – what business

Does he dare here, I wonder, this nemesis

Of worms and termites? So do the Barbets –

Awed at his red crest and sharp beak

And how funnily he sat on the stem, so unlike birds!

One Barbet hurried away – the other sidestepped the ‘Pecker

And watched him, like me, head cocked

Jabbing away at the ripe yellow Papaya.

Filled, he left, the mighty Woodpecker

Leaving the rest for the Barbet.

I reach for the music – happy at the signs

Of the new day to come.

********* Balachandran, Trivandrum 28.11.2009

Sunday, November 22, 2009


It had started raining early in the evening; there was no sign of a lull even later in the night. So, like always I do, I let the dogs inside the house. Tommy, the father, curls up on floor mat; Sancho, the son and my pet, nonchalantly lies down on his back beneath my cot, exposing his deep chest and genitals for the cool air of the ceiling fan. Next morning, I spot a puddle of urine on the corner of the verandah. I look daggers at Tommy and shout at him, drag him by the collar and show it to him. ‘Look what you have done, you stupid old dog, peeing inside the house!’ Tommy’s face is full of remorse and shame and he kind of prostrates before me, begging forgiveness.

Shame. Sometime ago, my son and I had a quarrel. K shouted at me, ‘I am ashamed of you!’ Parvati, Head of the Department of Botany in her college, once said, - ‘I am ashamed, begging for a lift in the cars of my colleagues. I am the only teacher in the college who doesn't have a car.’ Her college is on top of a hill and to reach the road and catch an autorickshaw or a bus she has to walk down a kilometer. We had never got around to buying a car for our own several reasons.

Reflecting on my past, I realize I distinctly remember each of the innumerable instances of shame, of self-contempt, of self-pity. Instances in which I have lost out, due to my handicaps, my ignorance. I shudder and grimace at the very thought of such times; I wish I were dead.

Glancing at the obituary columns, reading about people who commit suicide, singly or en family due to financial problems or some public ridicule; youngsters, for failing in examinations or in love affairs – I have always empathized with such people. I try to imagine their moments leading up to the final act, like killing their own children, killing themselves. They were amongst us, you see, perhaps you would have seen them waiting at the bus stop or queuing up at the cinema or relaxing at the beach. I think of them and ask them silently, why why, you could have waited a little more, problems would have been solved, you could have come to me-

Couple of days back, there was a terrible crisis. When I gave the title deeds of my property to the bank for a loan, they said it was not the original, that I have been living in this house without any rightful ownership. I will not go into the technicality of the issue, but when I heard this over phone, I sensed a kind of clamming up in my heart. My face went pale and my sight went vague. My colleague was asking me something; I said please, I am not in the right frame of mind now. There was a kind of stillness in all the movement around me. I was like the one in the TV ad where the man stood watching, frozen, as the rest of the world moved on, in slow motion. For sometime, there was this eerie silence. I bowed my head, in shame. I thought I had failed in my responsibilities, that I have brought only ruins of sorrow for my family. When in shame, we bow our heads, unable to look up, unable to look at others, unable to look at ourselves, unable to see anything other than our miserable selves.

Tommy raises his head and looks at me. His dark blue eyes glitter with love that the film of cataract cannot hide. I love these guys more than anything else in the world – I pat him, hold his head close to my chest and tell him ok, ok, but never do this again. He wags his tail; there is such relief and happiness in his face. He licks my hand.

^^^^^^^^Balachandran, Trivandrum 23.11.2009

photo 1: courtesy www.ctemploymentlawblog.com/dog.jpg

photo 2: courtesy fineartamerica.com/images-medium/old-black-la

Monday, November 16, 2009

Bird Watching

If I remember correctly,

It began at the temples.

I thought it most distinguished

Mature, even attractive -

Though it was the foreboding

of things to come.

Over decades, it spread gradually

Over the head, face and chest.

Now I notice it appearing

On my forearm, in ones and twos.

It took away the lustre in my eyes,

Strength in my limbs -

The slowing down of the systems

Is ominous than ever.

It is evening; sitting in my armchair,

I look at the sunlight slanting,

Shadows lengthening,

Night creeping up, cold.

I stretch my legs, take another sip

Of the Whisky.

He will come

When wind starts

Rattling the windows,

Swirling up dust

Settling it gently on this floor

When rain falls pitter-patter

When fireflies start to dance -

Silently he will come

On the wings of the Great Horned Owl.

******* Balachandran, Trivandrum 15.11.2009

Friday, November 13, 2009


Last weekend I had to go to Calicut on official business; which means an opportunity to travel 2nd A/C. In the night train, I prepared for sleep at around 2200 hrs; the other three were fast asleep. It might have been half an hour into slumber – I woke up to the roar of a snore, from right above me. Once you latch on to a snore, it is impossible to shake it off. Even the slightest pause in the snore opera would tense you up – when, when is it going to rap out again? Nothing will work to bring down the volume of the snore – pillow, cotton, counting sheep.

More than halfway into my journey, I sit up groggily, only to find the other two victims too awake and sitting huddled up on their berths. We mutter curses. I had to act, because I had to be fresh for the next day’s programme. I get out of the berth, stretch my arm and shake the young fellow. ‘Frr-Hmphrrhh - wh-wh-what?’ ‘If you don’t mind, you are bothering us with your snoring, lie down straight or something’. He does, for the next 10 minutes, by which time I am deep asleep and too tired to notice his performance later on.

When we get up to leave at Calicut, I offer the young fellow some advice. ‘Buy paper plaster available at any medical shop, cut a piece and stick it over your mouth before going to sleep. Snoring is mainly due to breathing through mouth. Hyperventilation has other problems too’

‘Yeah? Does it work?’ ‘Sure’, I said, ‘Ask my wife’.

**************** Balachandran V, Trivandrum 13.11.2009

Play Ball

I am playing ball, you see.
Throw it down, it bounces up
Throw it up, it comes down
Throw it on to the wall
Hey! it comes right back to me.

Tired or bored playing ball
I fling it on the floor
Despondent, it rolls to a corner.

I slump down on a chair
Sit watching the ball.
It looks back at me, sullen.
Glowing red, it takes the shape
Of my heart
Shouts why I wouldn't play ball
With life.
Balachandran V, Trivandrum 13.11.09

Thursday, November 5, 2009


He asked me politely, ‘ Do not write

All these sob-stuff, write about happiness’.

I turned further morose when he said kindly

‘Regret I cannot take anything away

From what you write’.

Rummaging through my trunk

I retrieved my faded, forgotten mask

Of good cheer.

Clasping it over my face

I felt good, looking in the mirror

Because I was grinning

From ear to ear.

But then, queerly, the reflection

Had empty sockets

Where my eyes should've been.

********* Balachandran V, Trivandrum 05.11.2009

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Introducing a blog

To continue our discussion (?) on religious beliefs , I would like you readers to visit the blog of a friend of mine, Anil Kurup. The blog is http://anilkurup59.blogspot.com/. I would like you to read one of the most powerful indictments on religion I have come across these days, in his post, 'Why I am not a Christian'. The title is borrowed from Bertand Russell and it is not only about Christianity but about religions in general.
Happy reading.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Commentaries on Living

In 1977, fresh out of college, hesitating whether to go for PG or get a job, jobless, loveless, a 20-year old boy roamed the streets of Trivandrum in great anguish and angst. (Angst is a nice word – I have not used it much before; so pardon me, I am enjoying saying it over and over) And then he happened to meet a man who would turn out to be quite important in his later life – J Krishnamurti. The boy saw this book, ‘Commentaries on Living’ and what made him pick up that book is not the name of the author but the title – Commentaries – there is a kind of detachedness about it, yet close observation – of life. From that day onwards the two became friends; the boy thought, Jeezuz, this guy is saying the very same things that I wanted to say! Yet, there were arguments too. The boy didn’t agree with JK in everything. In not following JK, he became the kind of disciple JK would have liked, walking by his side, not in his footsteps.

Perhaps, unconsciously, I have been writing a kind of commentary on my life, be it in poem or prose. It is not a celebrated life; just a man-in-the-street. But I believe I have tried to glean some insight, some understanding of things beyond the mundane. Blame it on my melancholia, most of what I have written, in retrospect, seems to be depressing! But there have not been any fear; just a kind of weariness about life.

Yesterday, I received the following comment from ‘Mike’ in my poem, ‘The Whiteout’. Mike, I understand is a real estate agent in the US. He hadn’t provided any email/ blog id, but from the link of his company’s URL, I could see he is doing good business.

I have read everything up to this point. Regretfully, I take nothing away. I do not cast aspersions in a heedless way; rather, I wish to say your heart needs to be glad, not sad. You take the world too seriously (or at least this is my perception). Live for the day. Love those near to you like there will be no tomorrow. Drop your baseless fears, endless searching. There is more to every day life. Here are a few words... on Fulfillment: In from the incoming ocean and over the island floor, the tide rises in slow motion, covering more and more, reef and lagoon and shore.~~ Finally reaching its fullest, what is its logic then? To cling to the heights at its tallest and curse fate, as would men, that it must come down again? ~~ The tide fulfilled I am learning is in its forever returning. Here is its bond with the beach. Here is the truth beyond speech. (end) Please write of the things which bring every day joy to your heart and life.

Kind regards,

Yes, Mike has been quite kind, short of saying you are a big bore! I replied that I can write only what I feel like writing; if I feel happy and feel like writing about it, I will. But the general state of mind is just the opposite, can’t help it. But, I said, there have been a few moments of happiness too. I felt what Mike said is true, I have been quite morbid, like a sick dog.

That set me wondering – are we bloggers writing what we want to write or what readers expect us to write? Are we trying to impress our readers, are we being honest in our writing? How can I write, like Mike asks me to, of contrived happiness? What are we, friends, doing here? Why do I, every day look up my dashboard for the new postings of my friends? When Sujata writes about Pujo or her life in Muscat or about her children – when Kalpana writes in length about baby care, when Sumi bubbles with joy, when Gopu writes about the unseen life behind the surgical masks – I am sharing your lives, your joys, your sorrows, your angst ( there I go again!) just as I share mine with you.

If, like Mike, you have not taken anything away, that will be a sad day for me. If, my writings have been as drab as my life, what can I say, - hope sun is shining out there!

Balachandran, Trivandrum 03.11.2009